Consider an upgrade – Fort Wilderness has four different types of sites to choose from in the tent/pop-up sites, the full hook-up sites, the preferred sites, and the premium sites. Each of these sites range in price with the tent/popup sites being the cheapest, and the premium being the most expensive. However, as you would assume, the tent/popup sites are farthest away from the action, just like the cheapest rooms in any of the resort hotels. Unlike the resort hotels, the cheapest sites in Fort Wilderness are not within walking distance to the pool, the stores, Pioneer Hall, or the ferry to Magic Kingdom. Fort Wilderness does offer an internal bus service, but, like other Walt Disney World buses, they will make other stops and it can take some time to get where you are going. So what can you do to efficiently navigate the campground? Well, you can always bring your own mode of transportation. We usually bring our bicycles when we are staying in the full hook-up sites. Some people tow their own golf carts from home, and, of course, some people rent them directly from Disney. To that I say (in the immortal words of Lee Corso): Not So Fast My Friend.
If you aren’t keen on the buses or bringing your bicycle, the better answer may be to upgrade your campsite rather than renting a golf cart. The beautiful thing is that while the campers with the big rigs can’t downgrade to the cheapest site due to their size, the campers who fit in the tent/pop-up sites can certainly upgrade. So, if you are thinking of renting a golf cart strictly for transportation purposes, I would recommend upgrading to a Premium or Preferred site instead. For example: At this time of year, a tent site currently costs $71 per night, while a premium site currently costs $107 per night, a difference of $36 per night. By comparison, one day of a golf cart rental runs $62 after tax. That is a savings of $26 per day. By upgrading from a full hook-up site ($91) to a premium site rather than renting a golf cart you can save $46 per day. Though the prices of each site will vary throughout the year, the upgrade cost will always be within a few dollars. While both the premium and preferred sites are within easy walking distance to the major amenities in Fort Wilderness, I prefer the premium sites. The cost difference between a preferred and premium site is less than $5 at any given time of year, and the location is more central between the pool and Pioneer Hall.
Take-out – If you don’t feel like cooking at your campsite you also shouldn’t feel like you have to pay a lot for a buffet dinner at Trail’s End. Trail’s End has a take-out entrance next to the Hoop-de-doo Musical Revue for both breakfast and dinner. The prices are very reasonable and most anything found on either buffet can be purchased to go. My favorite is biscuits and gravy to go for breakfast ($3.69).
Pass on Rapid Fill – I am not a fan of the Rapid Fill mugs to begin with, but at Fort Wilderness they seem like an exceptionally poor deal. Neither filling location (Meadow Trading Post and Trail’s End) is very close to the campsites. Besides, this is camping. If you need a coke, bring it from your campsite.
Avoid some of the dog walking trails – Anyone who camps with their four legged companions knows how much they can track into the camper. Some of the trails specifically designated for dog walking (one is in the 700 loop) can actually make matters worse. These trails go through the wooded areas of the campground and have a lot of pine needles and leaves covering the dirt and gravel path, all of which will end up on your camper floor. A better course of action may be to let your dog run free in the gated dog park, which is located near the 300 loop. Of course, if you enjoy a nice stroll with man’s best friend, it may be best to just walk your loop, providing you carry a sufficient amount of waste bags.
Know what’s going on at the Magic Kingdom – Being so close to the Magic Kingdom, it is always a good idea to look online at the events and fireworks schedule ahead of time. The 4th of July fireworks run the entire week of the 4th, not just that day. We checked in on the Sunday after the 4th of July last year and enjoyed the special 4th of July fireworks one night, and standard Wishes the next. It was kind of nice seeing two different fireworks shows on back to back nights.
Also, know if you are camping during the Halloween or Christmas parties. These are hard ticket events that people pay upwards of $70 for. Part of the draw to these parties are the special fireworks shows, and if you are camping at Fort Wilderness you can see them for free! Do not miss Hallowishes!
Sit closer to the dock, not the beach – A lot of people rush to the waterfront to grab a chair on the beach for the fireworks each night. The better play may be to grab one of the few tables on the dock at the marina, if possible. If you are on the beach you will be too far away to hear the Wishes music piped in as the speakers are on the dock. The tables are few, and are snatched up fast, but—if you are not opposed—there are plenty of places to sit on the dock itself.
Chip and Dale’s Campfire Sing-a-long – Most people know about this free character interaction (the only one on property year round). What most people don’t know is that you are allowed to bring your own food to roast over the campfires. It’s a great way to save money and break from the monotony of marshmallows (though I wouldn’t try to bring a dutch oven and set up camp near one of the pits).
So there you have it. My first installment of tips from my travels of Fort Wilderness. The more I learn, the more I will share, of course, but hopefully there are one or two things that can help make your camping trip a bit better!